'Punk' turtle that breathes through its genitals added to endangered list


The rebellious fashion choice of the Mary river turtle has caught the attention of netizens. It has a smooth, streamlined, boring and unpatterned shell and dark eyes. Cloacal ventilation allows the species to live underwater for days a time, as long as the water is flowing and well oxygenated.

They might look punkish, but don't let the appearance fool you - they're actually very docile creatures, which have traditionally been kept as pets (however, males can't be kept together because they're very aggressive to each other and remain separate in the wild). According to Australia's department of the environment, the Mary River Turtle's rapid decline was sparked by its popularity as a house pet in the 1970s and 80s, known then as the "Penny Turtle". By one account, their numbers are down 95% from the historic baseline.

The Mary River turtle, native to Queensland, Australia and has a distinctive green punk-rock hairstyle, two spikes under its chin and the ability to breathe through its genitals is on a new list of endangered reptiles.

The Edge programme uses a complex formula to award a threat score to unusual species at risk of extinction.

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Top of the list is the Madagascar big-headed turtle, which has an Edge score higher than that of any other amphibian, bird or mammal, and is still taken for food and global trade.

"Reptiles often receive the short end of the stick in conservation terms, compared with the likes of birds and mammals", said Rikki Gumbs, co-ordinator of ZSL's Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) list for reptiles. "However, the Edge reptiles list highlights just how unique, vulnerable and fantastic these creatures really are".

In the debate over saving endangered species, it may be that some should get priority just because of how weird they are.

"Just as with tigers, rhinos and elephants, it is vital we do our utmost to save these unique and too often overlooked animals. If we lose these species there will be nothing like them left on Earth", said Gumbs.